Crematoriums Fund Scam Surfaces In MP, Top Official Initiates Probe

A complaint drew the administration's attention which ordered a probe into the alleged misappropriation of funds worth over Rs 15 crore by a nexus of over 400 panchayat heads and members as well as government officials in Guna

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Crematoriums Fund Scam Surfaces In MP, Top Official Initiates Probe

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The villagers say that these crematoriums constructed in a hurry aren't ready to be used.

Guna, Madhya Pradesh:  Madhya Pradesh's Guna district, which has 1,100 villages, was to get 750 muktidham or crematoriums in 2014. The announcement and sanction of funds was done the same year. However, only 88 crematoriums were constructed in the last three years. A complaint by a villager drew the administration's attention which ordered a probe into the alleged misappropriation of funds worth over Rs 15 crore by a nexus of over 400 panchayat heads and members as well as government officials in Guna, about 185 km from state capital Bhopal.

The CEO of the Zila Parishad and Guna's Additional District Magistrate Niyaz Khan also set a 72-hour deadline on October 8 for the construction and completion of the crematoriums with a warning that FIRs will be filed against them in case of non-compliance.

To everyone's surprise, the contractors managed to construct about 278 crematoriums in the given time. When a new deadline, again for 72 hours, was fixed on October 18, another 100 crematoriums took shape.

But the villagers claim they can't use them as the structures done in a hurry lack basic facilities like a well, or water arrangement. The platforms where the rituals are performed are either missing or constructed without creating a foundation, if the boundary walls are paper-thin or half-done at some places, the gates and sheds are missing at other crematoriums, claim villagers from Chanchuda, Ragogarh, Aaron, Singhwasa, Bhadora and others. 

Each of these crematoriums was allotted a budget of Rs 3.5 to 4 lakh. But the money has gone to the officials' pockets, the villagers allege.

An inquiry was launched and official visits to these crematoriums confirmed their claims. An FIR was registered against four officials, 17 panchyat members were suspended, 42 officials were served show cause notices, 44 village sarpanch were handed out termination notices under the provisions of Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Avam Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993.

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"In my court there are almost 425 cases all related to corruption... It seems that panchayats are only interested in projects when there is a greater scope of corruption. It's easy to prepare fake muster rolls, bills," said Niyaz Khan.

Angry villagers say that earlier the upper caste didn't allow them to use the crematoriums. "In 2014, when the state government announced the project, we were relieved. But even after three years, the promise remains unfulfilled," said Sethrialal from Singhwasa village.

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